Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ohio State, Round II.

Ohio State Buckeyes
Current record: 14-5 (4-4)
Current RPI: 22
Current Sagarin: 28
Current Pomeroy: 48
2007-08 record: 24-13 (10-8) (won NIT)
2007-08 RPI: 46
2007-08 Sagarin: 21
2007-08 Pomeroy: 29
Series: IU leads 101-72
Last Ohio State win: 1/13/2009 (77-53 in Columbus)
Last IU win: 2/26/2008 (72-69 in Bloomington)
Last OSU win in Bloomington: 2/21/2004 (59-56)
Pomeroy scouting report
TV: 4 pm, ESPN2
IU plays its first repeat customer of the Big Ten season this afternoon. IU's loss in Columbus, along with the loss at Illinois, was one of IU's two completely non-competitive games of the seven Big Ten losses. After a strong nonconference season, OSU has gone 4-4 in the Big Ten, with a 1-3 road record and a home loss to Michigan State. Pomeroy projects OSU to finish 9-9 in the conference, so a loss today could lead to some uneasiness in Columbus about the Buckeyes' NCAA prospects. In the first IU-OSU game of the season, the Buckeyes, especially Jon Diebler, ended the game early by making 11 three pointers in the first half.
The Buckeye defense, a strength of the team early in the season, has fallen back to the pack a bit, particularly in Big Ten road games. Although OSU still ranks #34 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, the Buckeyes' 1.02 points per possession allowed in conference games is middle-of the-pack (IU, of course, is comfortably worst in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Still, this promises to be a struggle.
See Eleven Warriors for the OSU perspective.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Northwestern 77, Indiana 75.

For all of this team’s flaws, the Hoosiers have been competitive in five of seven Big Ten games, but still don’t have a win to show for it. Wednesday night’s loss in Evanston didn’t have the sting of the blown 20 point lead against Michigan, but would have been much easier to take if IU had at least been able to take a potential tying or winning shot instead of committing the 22nd turnover of the night. Here’s the box score. This was a 69 possession game, practically frenetic for Northwestern, but the two teams combined for 41 turnovers, which shortened quite a few possessions for each team. That is a positive. As I noted in the preview, NU takes care of the ball very well, so it is to IU's credit that the Wildcats struggled to take care of the ball. NU's turnover percentage of 27.7% was its worst of the Big Ten season. Unfortunately, IU's 32% was its worst of the Big Ten season. Ultimately, it was a very evenly matched game. Both teams shot 12-23 from behind the arc. NU made three more field goals than IU. IU turned the ball over a touch more. IU made a few more free throws and won the rebounding battle (as does everyone against Northwestern). Northwestern played great defense on the final inbounds play, IU panicked a bit, and that was that.

While Tom Crean and his team don't want to consider moral victories, it is to Crean's immense credit that this team continues to fight, both in every game and when games seem out of reach, such as when Northwestern took a 9 point lead in the second half. Although obviously disappointed to lose, Crean offered his team a round of applause as they came off the court Wednesday night.

The individuals:
  • Devan Dumes was great. 26 points on 16 attempts, 6-10 from behind the arc. Yes, he probably should have been ejected for the forearm to the head of Craig Moore. I don't really understand how the officials saw enough for a technical but not enough for the flagrant, but I won't complain. This has been the week of the cheap shot. Michigan's Zack Novak was ejected Wednesday night for an elbow to the head of an OSU player, and Wisconsin's Joe Krabbenhoft somehow didn't even get called for a foul when he added an obvious (and unnecessary) forearm to what should have been a beautiful screen.
  • Matt Roth had his biggest impact of the season, scoring 12 points on 4-7 from behind the arc.
  • Verdell Jones is progressing. He scored 14 points on 7 attempts, but gave back some of that efficiency by turning the ball over 7 times.
  • Malik Story managed 6 points on 0-2 from the field, thanks to a 6-6 performance from the line.
  • Tom Pritchard scored only 7 points, but had 10 rebounds, four offensive.
Again, IU fans can take some solace in the ability of this team to compete with 5 of 7 Big Ten foes to this point. Still, with two games against MSU, road trips to Purdue, Minnesota, and Penn State, a home game against Illinois, and two games against Wisconsin, the opportunities for wins are dwindling. Just one, to avoid heading into the offseason with a 21 game losing streak, would be nice, although this team's reward isn't going to come in 2008-09. We are going to have one seasoned group of sophomores next year, at least.

Be sure to check out postgame discussion here and here at Lake the Posts, and at Welsh-Ryan Ramblings.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Northwestern game.

Northwestern Wildcats
Current record: 10-7 (2-5)
Current RPI: 41
Current Sagarin: 43
Current Pomeroy: 46
2007-08 record: 8-21 (1-17)
2007-08 RPI: 191
2007-08 Sagarin: 190
2007-08 Pomeroy: 158
Series: IU leads 107-43
Last Northwestern win: 1/5/2005 (73-52 in Evanston)
Last IU win: 2/23/2008 (85-82 in Evanston)
Pomeroy scouting report
TV: 8:30 tonight, BTN

Tonight, IU tries once again for its first Big Ten win, and Northwestern tries to preserve its best NCAA Tournament hopes in memory (ever?). The Wildcats' record is unimpressive, but they have played a tough conference schedule to date, and their computer rankings suggest that they will be in bubble range if they win out at home and perhaps steal a road game (most likely in Bloomington, where NU hasn't won since 1968). A win tonight probably is crucial to Northwestern's postseason hopes. While IU has dominated the overall series and won 26 in a row against Northwestern from 1988 to 2003, NU has been much better at home, winning three of the last five in Evanston.

As always, NU is one of the slowest-paced teams in the country. Their offense is the same as it has been under Bill Carmody: NU shoots well, particularly from behind the arc (38 percent), takes care of the ball (17.6 %, #23), doesn't rebound well on either side of the ball. It's striking just how similar NU's tempo-free numbers look across good seasons and bad. The main distinction between this season and last season for NU is on the defensive side of the ball. NU is always good at forcing turnovers, and this season is no exception (25% defensive TO percentage, #21 nationally). The main difference this year has been 2 point field goal percentage. NU still allows its opponents to make 35 percent of their three point shots, but NU is holding opponents to 43.8 percent from two point range, good enough for #46 nationally.

Northwestern, like many slow paced teams (including Wisconsin) is always labeled as a good defensive team by those who haven't seen the tempo-free light. In most seasons under Carmody, the defense has lagged the offense. For once, however, the label fits this year. Even without any rebounding to speak of, NU's 47% effective field goal percentage and 25 percent turnover percentage lead to an adjusted offensive efficiency that ranks NU #35 nationally.

In previous weeks, I have noted that IU is better equipped to compete with perimeter-oriented teams than with teams with a strong inside presence. That means that on paper, IU should be competitive, relative to this season, with NU. The problem with that is that despite a very three pointer-oriented offense, NU is huge. Five of NU's top seven scorers, including leading scorer and three point threat Kevin Coble, are 6-8 or taller. Like Ohio State's Jon Diebler did, I worry that NU is going to get a bunch of easy three point looks.

Pomeroy gives IU a 4 percent chance of winning this game. That's hard to accept at an area where IU has lost only 6 times in the last 37 years. Still, IU made some progress against Minnesota and hopefully can continue that trend and hope for some cold shooting by the Wildcats.

Be sure to check out NU's Chamber of Commerce, Lake the Posts, for coverage.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Minnesota 67, IU 63.

The box score. IU was competitive for the fourth time in six Big Ten games, but has nothing but an 0-6 record to show for it. IU stayed with Minnesota all day, despite allowing Ralph Sampson (it seemed somehow appropriate to hear that last name repeated over and over) to run wild, would have been in a great position to win the game but for poor free throw shooting and some poor decision-making down the stretch. IU was only 11-21 from the line, including 7-15 in the second half. IU led for most of the first half, and while Minnesota stretched its lead to 7 on a couple of occasions in the second half, IU stayed close. I thought the key sequence was with 4:32 remaining. IU had pulled to within one point at 58-57, and rebounded a Minnesota miss. Malik Story, instead of pulling up, committed a charge on a drive to the basket. IU got to within one again in the final minute, but never took the lead in the second half. I don’t mean to pick on Story. Freshmen who ordinarily wouldn’t be put in such situations are forced to do so for this team.

Oh well. On to Northwestern. NU won at Michigan State last week, but at 2-5 needs to make a move if the Wildcats are to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance. It would be a tough road win.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Minnesota game.

Minnesota Golden Gophers
Current record: 16-3 (4-3)
Current RPI: 30
Current Sagarin: 36
Current Pomeroy: 49
2007-08 record: 20-14 (8-10), lost to Maryland in first round of NIT
2007-08 RPI: 98
2007-08 Sagarin: 78
2007-08 Pomeroy: 61
Series: IU leads 88-64
Last Minnesota win: 3/14/2008 (59-58 in BTT quarterfinals, Indianapolis)
Last IU win: 3/5/2008 (69-55 in Bloomington)
Last Minnesota win in Bloomington: 2/18/2004 (74-71)
Pomeroy scouting report
TV: noon Sunday, BTN

There was a time (well, as recently as last year) that I really dreaded these bye weeks, but I have to admit that the last week has been a relief. IU resumes Big Ten play at noon on Sunday against Minnesota, currently ranked #18 in the AP poll but having lost at Northwestern and at home to Purdue. I don't particularly relish the idea of playing a desperate Minnesota team. The Gophers, if they wish to remain in the Big Ten title hunt, cannot lose to IU.

The Gophers are in a great position to return to the NCAA Tournament, thanks to a 12-0 non-conference schedule, including a signature win over Louisville. The Gophers rank in the top 70 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, thanks mostly to strong shooting and offensive rebounding. The Gophers don't take particularly good care of the ball: they have a turnover percentage of 21.1 (#195) and steal percentage of 11.2 (#277). On the defensive end, the Gophers play good field goal defense, especially inside the arc, but do not rebound well. Particularly bad news for the Hoosiers: Minnesota leads the nation in shot block percentage, refunding an incredible 20.5 percent of opponents' field goal attempts. IU, of course, ranks #342 nationally with 14.4 percent of its attempts blocked. What's the over under on shot clock violations? The Gophers also are among the nation's leaders in forcing turnovers (23.9%, #34) and steals (13.9%, #7). To a significant degree, IU's worst stats are in Minnesota's best categories. Still, the Gopher defense has shown some vulnerability in the last two losses to Northwestern and Purdue. Northwestern shot 9-21 from behind the arc and Purdue was 6-11 last night.

Lawrence Westbrook is Minnesota's only doubvle-figure scorer at 13.9 points per game. Damien Johnson, Al Nolen, and Blake Hoffarber also contribute. Hoffarber is the Gophers' best three point shooter, and IU fans will remember him for the disappointing but probably merciful game-winner that he hit against IU in last season's Big Ten Tournament.

For all of IU's flaws, the Hoosiers have been mostly competitive in both conference home games, the excruciating loss to Michigan and last weekend's loss to Penn State. Minnesota needs a win, but IU can at least hope that the Gopher's poor play continues.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Big game for women's team tonight.

UPDATE: IU wins 71-57. While IU has won at Mackey and in the Big Ten Tournament, this was the Hoosiers' first home win against Purdue since 1998. This puts IU in sole possession of first place in the conference at 6-1, at least until 5-1 Ohio State plays next.

While I won't pretend to follow women's basketball closely, it's at least worth noting that while the men's team is having its worst season in memory, the women are having their best season in memory. IU is 11-2 and is 5-1 in the Big Ten, good enough for a three-way first place tie with Ohio State and Purdue. The Hoosiers are not ranked in either of the polls at the moment, but currently stand at #15 in the RPI and #18 in the Sagarin ratings. IU plays Purdue at Assembly Hall tonight. As a rivalry, it's always a big game. IU would gain legitimacy as a win, but I'm sure Purdue isn't anxious to surrender its historical upper hand in this series. One of the nice benefits to the Big Ten Network is that a game like this is actually televised.

Penn State 65, Indiana 55.

Sigh. IU was more competitive in this one than in the last two games, and certainly didn't quit, but IU never really threatened in this one. And so goes IU's 15-game homecourt winning streak against Penn State, leaving Northwestern as the only Big Ten team that has never won at Assembly Hall (or any other Bloomington venue since 1968). While Penn State's offensive numbers were more impressive than its defense before this game, some combination of PSU's defense and IU's anemic offense accounted for this loss. Penn State didn't shoot or rebound all that well, although the Lions turned the ball over only 8 times in a 64 possession game as opposed to 15 for IU. Penn State's main offensive accomplishment was getting to the line. On the defensive side, this was just another in a long line of anemic offensive performances for IU (.85 points per possession). Matt Roth (2-3) and Brett Finkelmeier (1-1) were the only Hoosiers who shot over 50 percent from the field, and the team overall shot 37 percent and 20 percent from behind the arc.

Of all of the indignities of this season, this one might have been the toughest. By that I mean no disrespect to Penn State, a much improved team with a shot at making the tournament. Still, entering the game, this appeared to be IU's best chance at a conference win, and while IU was by no means embarrassed, Penn State plainly was the better team throughout, even on the road. This one was tough to swallow because before Saturday, I really hadn't accepted 0-18 as a reasonable possibility. It is.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Penn State game: playing for pride.

Penn State Nittany Lions
Current record: 13-5 (2-3)
Current RPI: 86
Current Sagarin: 72
Current Pomeroy: 76
2007-08 record: 15-16 (7-11)
2007-08 RPI: 155
2007-08 Sagarin: 115
2007-08 Pomeroy: 108
Series: IU leads 27-4 (25-4 since Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1992-93)
Last Penn State win: 3/9/2008 (68-64 in OT, University Park)
Last IU win: 1/20/2008 (81-65 in Bloomington)
Last Penn State win in Bloomington: never
Pomeroy scouting report
TV: 6 pm, BTN

As I have said at various points, it was obvious before the season that an invitation to the NCAA Tournament was beyond this team's reach. It became obvious early in the season that a winning season was beyond this team's reach. Now, most IU fans would kill for a handful of Big Ten wins. IU has been competitive in two of its conference games, most painfully the Michigan game and the blown 20 point lead. The other two have been blowouts. Now, IU faces an improved Penn State team. The numbers above make clear that the Nittany Lions have some work to do if they want to contend for a NCAA bid, but it seems that every Big Ten team except for IU can make the case that it is still in the hunt. According to Pomeroy, tomorrow's game presents IU's best chance for a win. Pomeroy gives IU a 22 percent chance to win this game, 5 points better than IU's 17 percent odds at home against Iowa. So, if there are any important games this season, this is one of them.

The Nittany Lions have played well at home this season, upsetting Purdue and nearly upsetting Michigan State. They are 2-2 in true road games, with wins at Penn and Georgia Tech and with losses at Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Penn State play what quickly seems to be becoming a predominant Big Ten style: like Iowa, Michigan, and Ohio State, Penn State plays a slow-paced game and has an efficient offense premised on taking care of the ball and shooting well from three point range. Penn State ranks #42 in offensive efficiency (1.10) #7 in offensive turnover percentage (16.8%), #27 in three point shooting percentage (38%), and #56 in percentage of points generated by three pointers. On the defensive side, Penn State is just above the mean, surrendering .99 points per possession. The rebound well defensively, ranking #9 nationally by allowing only 26.9 percent offensive rebounding, but clearly this rebounding focus to some extend explains below average numbers in steals, blocks, and turnovers. IU has so many deficiencies that it's hard to say which is the worst, but at the very least, IU should have better luck taking care of the ball against this Penn State team, but better shoot well. Penn State rebounds well without being a particularly tall team.

As for the individuals, sophomore guard Taylor Battle leads the way with 18.9 points per game and 41 percent three point shooting. Jamelle Cornley averages 14.6 points and shoots over 50 percent from the field, and Stanley Pringle averages 14.2 points per game and 50 percent (!) from behind the arc. Given IU's perimeter defense...well, you figure it out. Cross your fingers and hope they have a first half like Michigan did. That's what it has come to.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ohio State 77, Indiana 53.

Here are the stats. IU competed for most of the second half, and actually managed to pull within 13 points at one point, but like all too many of IU's games this season and for the second game in a row, it was over by the first media timeout. IU's perimeter defense continues to be a problem, and Ohio State made 11 three pointers in the first half, accounting for 75 percent of their scoring. Jon Diebler made 5 of those three pointers. I noted in the preview that Diebler's height and shooting ability could prove a deadly combination. Certainly, some of those shots were wide open, but at least a couple were "contested" by a much shorter IU player. IU's .81 points per possession will win very few games, and the 24.8 turnover percentage, while not awful by this team's standards, continues to be a problem. Verdell Jones looked more comfortable attacking the basket than he ever has, but accounted for five of those turnovers. IU did rebound well (38 percent on the offensive end to 21 percent by OSU), but the Buckeyes made so many three pointers that it didn't matter. Other random thoughts:
  • Dallas Lauderdale looks old enough to be Greg Oden's father.
  • Tom Prtichard was fairly effective, scoring 16 points on 14 shots and grabbing 11 rebounds.
  • Devan Dumes struggled in his return from an ankles injury (is it a return if he didn't miss a game), shooting 3-12 from the field and finishing with 8 points.
  • Broderick Lewis, a freshman walk-on from Lafayette, received his first meaningful minutes, and played reasonably well. He didn't have an official field goal attempt, but shot 3-4 from the line and had two rebounds and no turnovers. Lewis is 6-6 and was a state finalist in the long jump in high school. He had the reputation of not being a particularly skilled basketball player, but hopefully he will improve and continue to contribute.
  • Although he is a graduate of Lafayette Jeff, his hometown is listed as "West Lafayette." IU has Verdell Jones from Champaign, and will have Jordan Hulls from Bloomington next year, which is a fair representation of Big Ten college towns.
Check out the Buckeye perspective here and here.

Well, as I said, IU at least has some conceivably winnable games in the future, although IU will be a decided underdog in all three. In my mind, Saturday is a major "pride game" for this program. This team is going to finish with IU's worst record in generations, so there won't be much opportunity for major milestones. But Penn State has never won at Assembly Hall. Continuing that streak, while not banner-worthy, could be some sort of source of pride for this team.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Ohio State game.

Ohio State Buckeyes
Current record: 11-3
Current RPI: 30
Current Sagarin: 29
Current Pomeroy: 45
2007-08 record: 24-13 (10-8) (won NIT)
2007-08 RPI: 46
2007-08 Sagarin: 21
2007-08 Pomeroy: 29
Series: IU leads 101-71
Last Ohio State win: 1/2/2007 (74-67 in Columbus)
Last IU win: 2/26/2008 (72-69 in Bloomington)
Last IU win in Columbus: 2/10/2008 (59-53)
Pomeroy scouting report
TV: 7 pm, ESPN

IU's rough road in the Big Ten seems likely to get rougher tonight. After playing competitively in close losses to Iowa and Michigan, IU was humiliated at Illinois, and Ohio State seems likely to continue that trend. The Buckeyes are one of the country' best defensive teams, allowing only .89 points per possession. The Buckeyes' numbers don't reveal any particular excellence in rebounding or steals/turnovers. The Buckeyes simply play excellent two point field goal defense, block lots of shots, and their opponents don't get to the line. OSU opponents shoot fewer free throws per field goal attempt than against all but ten other teams, and OSU ranks #33 and #21 in three point and two point field goal defense. On offense, OSU shoots well from two point range and takes good care of the ball.

The Buckeyes are tall. Evan Turner leads OSU with about 15 points per game and is shooting 49 percent from the field, and just below that from two point range. John Diebler, a three point specialist who also happens to be 6-5, seems like a particularly bad matchup.

As if this team's best day weren't bad enough, IU is likely to be without one of its key players, Devan Dumes. Dumes twisted his ankle in the Illinois game and per Inside the Hall, Tom Crean described Dumes as a "game time decision at best." I think it's unlikely that he will play. After tonight's game, IU plays Penn State at home, Minnesota at home, and at Northwestern. While IU will be the underdog in all of those games, they seem a bit more realistic than the prospect of winning at OSU even with Dumes.

Despite the football-oriented name, Eleven Warriors is an OSU blog that acknowledges the existence of basketball and previews the IU game.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Illinois 76, Indiana 45.

Illinois is a good team that played well. IU is a bad team that played badly. I'm not sure it warrants any more analysis than that. Unfortunately, the turnover problems, which had subsided for a while, were back in full force yesterday. The IU official site couldn't bring itself to post the play-by-play, but it seems to me that much like the Kentucky game, a huge run of turnovers combined with hot, uncontested Illinois shooting ended this game before the first TV timeout.

The worst part of the game was the injury to Devan Dumes. This morning, WTHR-TV reported that Dumes was seen on crutches after the game after landing badly on his ankle during the Illinois game. It's hard to imagine IU winning a conference game in which Dumes doesn't play.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Illinois game.

Illinois fighting Illini
Current record: 13-2 (1-1)
Current RPI: 21
Current Sagarin: 17
Current Pomeroy: 24
2007-08 record: 16-19 (5-13)
2007-08 RPI: 99
2007-08 Sagarin: 73
2007-08 Pomeroy: 40
Series: IU leads 82-78
Last IU win: 2/7/2008 (83-79 in Champaign, double OT)
Last Illinois win: 3/9/2007 (58-54 in Chicago, Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals, OT)
Last Illinois win in Champaign: 1/23/2007 (51-53)
Pomeroy scouting report
TV: 3pm Saturday, BTN
No longer "one player away," the Illini, like Michigan, like Iowa, and like just about everyone else, are on the list of vastly improved Big Ten teams. The Illini lost at Michigan, but also have the Big Ten's most impressive conference win to date, at preseason favorite Purdue. Last year, the contentiousness between Illinois coach Bruce Weber and Kelvin Sampson and Eric Gordon boiled over, and I expect that Weber and his team will be out for blood. I've said just about all I'm going to say about last year's despicable, coach-and-administration-approved atmosphere at the other Assembly Hall. I thought that Joe from Paint the Town Orange had a very reasonable perspective on the whole affair, although I'm sure we would disagree on some of the particulars. I was shocked when I heard earlier in the week that the Big Ten Network showed it as one of the Big Ten's greatest games. Give me a break. IU should be embarrassed that it ever hired Kelvin Sampson, and Illinois (and I hold the administration and Squeaky responsible much more than the fans) should be ashamed of that toxic atmosphere that they encouraged. I really don't want to think about that game, let alone see it again. Still, I couldn't help but think of it when Michigan's Laval Lucas-Perry bounced in that three pointer to force overtime. It was the third time in IU' last 13 Big Ten games that a fluky three pointer has played a huge outcome: the banked-in Gordon three that sent the Illinois game to overtime, the banked-in game-winner by Wisconsin's Brian Butch last season, and the Michigan game.
As for this year's Illinois team, they are excellent in basically every aspect of the game except rebounding and getting to the free throw line. They shoot well, take care of the ball, force lots of turnovers on defense, and play strong field goal defense. Unlike IU's recent opponents, Illinois is not a perimeter-oriented team. Only 25 percent of their field goal attempts are three pointers, #303 of 344 D-I teams. The Illini have a very balanced attack, with four players averaging between 11.7 and 12 points per game. Those four are Demetri McCamey, the unfortunately named Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale, and Trent Meacham. Chest-bumpin' Chester Frazier starts and leads the team with over 6 assists per game, but doesn't score much. Illinois had its worst defensive performance of the year against Michigan, and allowed 11-27 three point shooting. Devan Dumes and Matt Roth probably are IU's only hope.
This will be a very difficult task for IU, and I don't hold out much hope for a win. Still, IU has played better than expected in both Big Ten games this season, and we can hope that trend will continue.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Final Blogpoll ballot.

1 Florida 1
2 Texas 1
3 Southern Cal 3
4 Utah 4
5 Oklahoma 2
6 Alabama 2
7 Penn State --
8 TCU 8
9 Ohio State --
10 Oregon 4
11 Texas Tech 6
12 Boise State 2
13 Georgia 2
14 Mississippi 8
15 Virginia Tech 10
16 Oklahoma State 5
17 Oregon State 9
18 Iowa 8
19 Missouri 1
20 Florida State 4
21 Cincinnati 8
22 West Virginia 4
23 Michigan State 6
24 Georgia Tech 12
25 LSU 1

Dropped Out: Boston College (#19), Pittsburgh (#20), Northwestern (#21), Brigham Young (#23).

I'm all over the map on the lower end of the poll, which means I'm probably overvaluing bowl games. Oh well, does anyone care about anything but the top five at this point? If Oklahoma had won last night, I probably would have ranked Texas #1. As it stands, Florida's SEC championship game win over Alabama and last night's win, comparable to Texas's best win, gives the Gators the best resume.

I respect what Utah did, and if they had scheduled (and beat) the Michigan program they thought they were scheduling, I might have given them a look. But they played only three teams from the Sagarin top 30, and two of those were non-BCS conference programs. I have a hard time imagining that Utah could have navigated the gauntlet Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Missouri, and Texas Tech with the 3-1 record that Texas managed, let alone 4-0. Ditto the SEC schedule of Florida. Every team ranked ahead of Utah has a top 16 schedule per Sagarin. Utah is #56. Sorry, guys. Maybe you and BYU can talk the Pac-10 into becoming the Pac-12. Until then, it will take a special confluence of circumstances for a non-BCS program to become a national champion (of course, I'm so averse to the idea of a 2-loss champion that I probably would have voted Utah over LSU last year, assuming the Utes wouldn't have played in the championship game under that scenario).

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Michigan 72, Indiana 66 (OT).

Here's the box score. I really don't know what to do with it. The game was such a tale of two halves that a full-game box score doesn't tell much of a story. I'm embarrassed to say how into that game I was and how much I wanted IU to win it. It may as well have been the Elite Eight given the way I handled it. Of course, the missed free throws in OT were tough, but the game was over by then. IU had a six point lead with a minute to go but couldn't hang on. Devan Dumes is taking quite a bit of grief in certain quarters (most conspicuously from a certain 4'10" sports columnist with bad facial hair whom I will not dignify with a link) for his decision, with about 40 seconds remaining and a three point lead, to drive to the basket to take advantage of a 2 on 1. Obviously, in retrospect I wish he had tried to dribble the clock out, but I think it was as much an execution problem as a judgment problem. If it had been a 3 on 1, or a 2 on 1 with a defender in a worse position, it would have been worthwhile. As well as Michigan shoots the ball, I would rather have a 5 point lead with 30 seconds left than a 3 point game with 10 seconds left. Ultimately, he made the wrong decision and a bad play, but I disagree that he violated some cardinal rule of basketball. If that had been a bit better opportunity, going for the quick basket would have been the right decision.

As for the rest of the game, I don't have a whole lot to say. While IU's defense was good, Michigan missed plenty of makeable three pointers in the first half, and everyone knew that neither that trend nor IU's 50 percent shooting would hold up. I thought Matt Roth showed why he is going to be a weapon for years to come. Nothing in the tempo-free gameplan from Pomeroy is overwhelmingly good or bad. We took moderately good care of the ball by this team's standards, rebounded pretty well at both ends of the court, and so on. This was a missed opportunity against a pretty good team.

IU now travels to Illinois on Saturday, and we can expect Bruce Weber to show no mercy. Next Tuesday, IU goes to Ohio State. After that, IU enters a three game stretch that presents a bit of hope: Penn State and Minnesota at home, Northwestern on the road. IU will be a prohibitive underdog, but if the effort remains, I do agree with the emerging consensus that this team will find a way to win a few conference games.

Reaction from the Michigan blogosphere:


I would have rather lost by 20. As I was going to say in my gracious post-game victory post, it's an odd sensation to have a 17 point home lead and yet fear that Michigan's coach might engineer a comeback. I didn't feel that way when Michigan was good, let alone the last 10 years. The Big Ten is on its way back. We aren't quite yet. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pregame notes.

Just a brief tour of the Internet before tonight's game:
  • Dylan at UMHoops runs one of the best basketball-focused Big Ten blogs. His preview of tonight's game is here.
  • Leading Michigan blog mgoblog is covering basketball a bit more than usual this season, although nothing about this game so far.
  • Inside the Hall talks tempo-free, has also noticed IU's good defensive turnover numbers; Michigan preview here.
  • Maize-n-Brew's preview.
  • Maize-Blue Nation here.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Michigan game.

Michigan Wolverines
Current record: 11-3 (1-1)
Current RPI: 40
Current Sagarin: 37
Current Pomeroy: 56
2007-08 record: 10-22 (5-13)
2007-08 RPI: 167
2007-08 Sagarin:
2007-08 Pomeroy: 112
Series: IU leads 97-51
Last IU win: 1/8/2008 (78-64 in Ann Arbor)
Last Michigan win: 2/17/2007 (58-55 in Ann Arbor)
Last Michigan win in Bloomington: 1/24/1995 (65-52)
Pomeroy scouting report
TV:6:30 pm Wednesday, BTN

Michigan, like several other Big Ten programs, is dramatically better this season than last. I had forgotten just how bad the Wolverines were in John Beilein's first season, but with non-conference wins over Duke and UCLA, Michigan is showing signs of progress. Michigan lost its Big Ten opener to Wisconsin at home, but beat Illinois, also at home, on Sunday. I doubt Michigan fans will feel much sympathy for IU's plight, given the long ramifications for the (much more serious) violations associated with the Fab Five/Fisher era improprieties. It seemed that Michigan was in limbo for a decade after that story broke. IU is 15-3 against Michigan since the Wolverines' last NCAA bid in 1998, and won 11 in a row to begin the Amaker era. Also, Michigan's Assembly Hall record of 4-30 is the worst of any Big Ten team other than Penn State and Northwestern (neither school has won in Assembly Hall). Michigan could exercise some demons with a win tomorrow night.

On the other hand, like Iowa, Michigan is a perimeter-oriented, less-than-physically-overpowering team that probably presents one of IU's best chances for a Big Ten win. Right now, Pomeroy gives IU a 17 percent chance to win this one. IU's only better odds are for home games against Penn State (21%) and Minnesota (19%).

Not unlike Iowa, Michigan plays a slow-paced style (62 possessions per game, #262 of 344). The Wolverines take extremely good care of the ball, ranking #4 nationally with a 16.1 turnover percentage. The Wolverines' overall offensive efficiency ranks them in the top 30 nationally, and they are shooting very well from two point range (51.7%, #49) and from the line (77.8, #9). Michigan takes 45.1 percent (#13) of its shots from behind the arc, but hasn't been overwhelmingly good in that regard: the Wolverines are shooting 34.9 percent, good enough for #134 nationally.

On the defensive side of the ball, Michigan is fine but not overwhelming. They rank #135 in defensive efficiency, play excellent three point defense, and their opponents don't get to the line. As with the Iowa game, one glimmer of hope for the Hoosiers is that Michigan doesn't force many turnovers. IU has improved in that regard recently. The Wolverines also don't rebound all that well, particularly on the offensive end. That's by design, but does create some opportunities for IU. Thanks to better ball handling, IU's offensive production has been better in the last two games, but the defensive performance has slipped. If IU can continue to take care of the ball but can force Michigan to turn the ball over, the Hoosiers might have a chance.

Manny Harris, formerly an IU recruiting target, leads Michigan at 18.8 points per game, but is shooting only 44 percent from the field and 30 percent from behind the arc. DeShawn Sims, a 6-8 junior with three point range, is averaging 16.6 points but is shooting 53 percent overall and 38 percent from behind the arc. If the performances of Iowa's Cyrus Tate and Lipscomb's Adnan Hodzic are any indication, Sims is going to be a problem. Also, Zach Novak, a 6-5 freshman from Chesterton, Indiana, is shooting 43 percent from three point range and is 8-12 in his first two Big Ten games. Also, Laval Lucas-Perry, a midterm transfer from Arizona, is averaging 11.6 per game in his first five games as a Wolverine and is shooting 50 percent from behind the arc.

Michigan is currently at the top of the "others receiving votes" category and the computer rankings show that Michigan is in NCAA Tournament contention. An IU win would be a significant upset, but because Michigan won't be able to push IU around physically in the manner of Gonzaga or Wake Forest, there is some hope. That's about the most we can ask this season.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Iowa 65, Indiana 60.

Here are the stats. Not surprisingly, many are describing yesterday's loss as a moral victory. I'm not so sure. IU is going to have a seriously limited number of opportunities to win Big Ten games this season, and it's disappointing to pass up such an opportunity. Despite trailing by 13 on a couple of occasions in the second half, IU pulled to within two points on two Matt Roth free throws with 22 seconds remaining.

IU's offensive efficiency number of 1.045 points per shot was IU's best of the year against a major opponent, and while the slow pace of 57 possessions exaggerates it, IU's 11 turnovers amounted to IU's second best turnover percentage of the season, 19.2. IU didn't shoot particularly well, so the increased offensive production seems most closely related to the lack of turnovers. IU rebounded reasonably well and got to the line often. Unfortunately, everything that IU did, Iowa did just a bit better. IU got to the line. Iowa got to the line more. IU had only 11 turnovers. Iowa had only 10. And so on. IU did do a decent job on the perimeter defensively. Ordinarily, Iowa takes 48 percent of its shots from behind the arc and makes 40 percent of them. Yesterday, Iowa took only 32 percent of its shots from three point range and made only 35 percent. Still, it's not clear whether that was because of IU's defense or because Cyrus Tate was incredible, scoring 22 points on 6-6 from the field andf 10-11 from the line. Finally, Iowa's leading scorer, Anthony Tucker, did not play.

I'm not sure exactly what to take from this game. As I said in the preview, Iowa isn't a particularly imposing team, and they were missing a key player. IU's progress this year has not been linear, so I am hesitant to think that we have turned the corner. Still, this game provides some optimism about IU's ability to hold on for a few home wins. As for the individuals:
  • Pritchard was okay, scoring 11 points on 7 shots, but was in foul trouble, as were several other Hoosiers.
  • Nick Williams had his best day as a Hoosier, scoring 14 points on 7-11 from the field.
  • Devan Dumes scored 12 points on 8 shots, despite 2-8 from the field, thanks to 6-6 from the line.
IU plays at home against Michigan on Wednesday. The Wolverines are now 1-1 in the Big Ten after losing at home to Wisconsin and beating Illinois, also at home. Michigan has non-conference wins over Duke and UCLA, but hasn't won a true road game yet. More on that game later.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Iowa game.

Iowa Hawkeyes
Current record: 10-4
Current RPI: 42
Current Sagarin: 61
Current Pomeroy: 46
2007-08 record: 13-19 (6-12)
2007-08 RPI: 188
2007-08 Sagarin: 149
2007-08 Pomeroy: 116
Series: IU leads 93-68
Last Iowa win: 2/3/2007 (81-75 in Iowa City)
Last IU win: 1/23/2008 (65-43 in Bloomington)
Last IU win in Iowa City: 1/3/2008 (79-76)
Pomeroy scouting report
TV: 4:30 pm, BTN

IU last played in Iowa City exactly one year ago. The tables have turned. Last year, Iowa entered the game with sub-200 computer ratings and IU harbored Final Four aspirations. While the Hawkeyes remain NCAA Tournament longshots, they are vastly improved, as are most Big Ten teams. Further, at this point, IU would kill for Iowa's 6-12 Big Ten record of 2008. As most of you know, the Hawkeyes are led by former Butler coach Todd Lickliter, and the style of play is as expected. Iowa is the slowest-paced team in Division I, averaging only 57.2 possessions per game. Like Lickliter's Butler teams, Iowa is very efficient offensively. The Hawkeyes average 1.13 points per possession, rank #4 nationally in effective field goal percentage, and are in the top thirty in two point, three point, and free throw shooting percentage. The Hawkeyes take good care of the ball, turning the ball over less than 20 percent of the time, and they assist 60 percent of their made field goals. Like those Butler teams, Iowa doesn't place a priority on offensive rebounding, but barely into Lickliter's second season, he has dramatically reshaped the program. Iowa's defensive numbers are not as outstanding but are above-average nearly across the board. The Hawkeyes are highly three-point reliant, so IU's only (slim) hope is a poor shooting night.
Iowa's best win came against Kansas State, currently #18 in Pomeroy, in Las Vegas. Really, that is Iowa's only signature win, and the losses have all been respectable: West Virginia, Boston College, Drake, and Ohio State (Iowa lost by three on the road on New Year's Eve).
Freshman Anthony Tucker is Iowa's leading scorer at only 11.8 points per game, with freshman Matt Gatens and sophomores Jeff Peterson and Jake Kelly (Daniel Moore's high school teammate at Carmel) close behind. Tucker shoots 43 percent on over 7 three point attempts per game. Gatens is shooting 53 percent from behind the arc and Peterson 41. Cyrus Tate seems to be the only true big man who plays much role in the scoring offense.
The Hawkeyes are not as physicially imposing as some of the very tall teams IU has played thus far, but they are very effective at what they do, and IU will need to play much better, and hope for some cold Iowa shooting, to be competitive.